Staying active during the cold winter months is no easy feat. Exercising in the winter can be discouraging when the temperature drops to well below zero. In fact, it’s often incredibly tempting to curl up under a blanket with a good book or movie and not leave the house. However, physical activity is very important for maintaining overall health.
Studies have shown that there are numerous health benefits with regular exercise and physical activity. Not only do they improve the physical body, there are many benefits for the mind. Because exercise causes the brain to produce various endorphins, a regular physical activity can improve your mood and even fight mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Other health benefits of regular exercise include:
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced risk of disease and chronic pain
- Healthier immune system
- Better skin
- Boosted brain health and memory
- Better sleep quality
- Heightened sex drive
Without further ado, here are 11 ways to stay active and fit in winter, other than just going to the gym:
1. Use the stairs.
Whether in your apartment building or office, whenever possible opt for the stairs. Using the stairs increases your heart rate and can be a great form of cardio, even if it’s in quick bursts throughout the day.
To take it up a notch, use the stairs as a workout. Practice running or walking up and down several flights, taking a break every few floors. For example, run up three floors and then walk the length of the hallway before resuming your workout. You can even add exercises every few steps or floors, such as squats, lunges or jumping jacks.
2. Join an indoor sports league.
Another great way to up your physical activity during the winter is to join an indoor sports league. In many cities, there are a lot of local clubs and groups that meet every week to play various sports. Some groups are simply recreational, while others are for experienced players only.
Don’t forget to put on your favorite sports shoes! It adds to your motivation when you’re wearing a comfortable sports shoes that keep your feet in good shape, free from blisters, pain and other common sports injuries. Make sure that your sportswear is not just for OOTD posts in social media, sweat it out!
Go ahead and check out your local community guide for leagues near you. Consider trying out a new sport, even one you’re not quite as comfortable with. Often, you can find great deals with community-run programs.
3. Go ice skating.
Ice skating is a terrific aerobic workout and can become a social event as well. Grab some of your friends and head to your local rink. You can incorporate a sort of circuit training to intensify the workout. If you have a good length of ice to work with, try skating forward for 30 to 40 feet as fast as you can and then go back, only skate backwards this time. This will work on several muscle groups in addition to providing a great cardio workout.
4. Go for a walk at the mall.
If walking is your typical exercise of choice and you prefer not to walk outdoors, consider walking laps at your local mall. In addition to burning calories, you can enjoy window shopping and people watching. Just one hour of brisk walking can burn between 300 and 400 calories.
If your mall has several levels or stores with escalators, consider adding those elements to your workout. Stairs are a great way to boost your total calories burned as well as working on other muscle groups.
5. Try a group class.
If you dread going to the gym and prefer not spending more time outdoors than is necessary for the winter months, consider trying a group class such as yoga, Zumba or cycling. Often, a group setting will encourage you to work harder than you might at home or at the gym. In addition, many studios offer discounted rates for new students.
6. Do a home workout.
If group classes aren’t your thing, consider grabbing a home workout DVD, or sign up for an online workout website. There are many types of home workouts, and often they don’t need additional equipment, just a small bit of space to move around in. Try new forms of exercise, such as yoga, pilates, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and even dance cardio. The possibilities are virtually endless!
7. Go snowboarding or skiing.
Snowboarding and skiing are great forms of exercise, perfect for the cold and snowy winter months. If you’re inexperienced, consider signing up for lessons at your local park or resort. You can often find great deals for new students, especially if you’re a local resident. The advantage of snowboarding or skiing at a park or resort is the use of its equipment for a small fee.
If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder with your own equipment, consider taking a morning or afternoon trip to a nearby hill and test your skills on your own. Both sports use many muscle groups and are great ways to keep active during the winter.
8. Catch up on household chores.
Many people don’t realize what a great workout seemingly mundane tasks such as sweeping, mopping and vacuuming can be. On average, you can burn up to 200 calories an hour from these light household chores. Throw in some trips up and down the stairs and more strenuous tasks, and you can burn upwards of 400 calories an hour.
9. Shovel snow.
While it may not be the most fun winter activity, shoveling snow can be fairly strenuous. So, next time you wake up to a nice layer of snow on your driveway, forego the snowblower for the traditional shovel. Just one hour of shoveling snow can burn more than 400 calories. If you’re looking for a real challenge, offer to shovel your neighbor’s driveway, too.
10. Spend some time volunteering.
If you’re looking to give back this winter season in addition to staying active, consider spending some time volunteering at your local soup kitchen or canvassing for donations to the food bank. There are virtually unlimited ways to volunteer your time, so when you’re looking for a good workout and a way to give back, the choice is easy.
11. Take your dog on a walk.
Another good way to burn a few extra calories is to bundle up you and your hairy friend and go on a nice long walk around the neighborhood. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and we already mentioned you can burn up to 400 calories an hour by walking briskly. Granted, you likely won’t move quite as quickly with a dog in tow, but you can still expect to burn between 200 and 300 calories on an hour-long walk at a moderate pace.
Staying active this winter season doesn’t have to be a chore. Switch up your standard routine and incorporate one of the aforementioned activities into your workout calendar. Keeping physically active is vitally important in maintaining your overall health and in improving your body’s longevity.
→ For tips on how to keep your joints healthy this winter, click here.